Kehoe, Séagh. 2018. Review: Oral and Literary Continuities in Modern Tibetan Literature: The Inescapable Nation. Asian Highlands Perspectives 51:341-345.
Lama Jabb. 2015. Oral and Literary Continuities in Modern Tibetan Literature: The Inescapable Nation. London: Lexington Books. ix + 277. Acknowledgements, index, bibliography, index, biography. ISBN 978-1498503334 (handbac 95USD; electronic 90USD).
Oral and Literary Continuities in Modern Tibet: The Inescapable Nation, Lama Jabb's contribution to Studies in Modern Tibetan Culture series, is the first book-length study in English to center the literary, cultural, and political roots of modern Tibetan literature. Written by Lama Jabb, born and raised in a herding community in Amdo and now a junior research fellow in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies at the University of Oxford, this ambitious landmark study offers an in-depth and meticulously researched examination of the persistence of Tibet's artistic and oral traditions in the literary creativity of the present. Spanning a wide-range of oral and literary texts, the book also draws attention to the deep and untiring concern for the Tibetan nation across modern Tibetan writing.
The book is neatly organized into seven chapters, along with acknowledgements, an extensive bibliography, index, and short biography of Lama Jabb himself. In 277 pages, it moves gracefully across a diverse and skillfully interwoven set of discussions of Tibetan music, the Tibetan tradition of social criticism, cultural traumas, the Third Generation of Tibetan poets, and contemporary Tibetan erotic poetry, all the while spotlighting literary legacies and the persistent preoccupation for with the Tibetan nation in modern Tibetan literature.
In the Introduction, Lama Jabb contextualizes his argument in what he notes to be a pervasive approach to modern Tibetan literature that emphasizes the 1980s as its point of '"birth'." While acknowledging that the relatively liberal policies adopted by the Third Plenum of the Eleventh Chinese Communist Party Congress in 1978 led to a watershed moment in modern Tibetan literature, Lama Jabb problematizes the scholarly preoccupation with rupture and fissure that so often obscures and neglects the enduring legacies and continuity of traditional literary and oral forms. Using several examples of the ways in which mgur, Indic poetics, Tibetan literary greats such as Gedun Choepel (1903-1951), and oral traditions, he demonstrates that these traditional forms continue to influence Tibetan writing today. Moreover, he also highlights the overwhelming concern with history, language, culture, and religion as a major theme in modern Tibetan literature.